Jackass Forever is chaotic, dumb — and nearly perfect

Twenty years after their first trip to the big screen — and more than 10 years after their third — the Jackass crew is back for Jackass Forever. The result is a near-perfect throwback: stupid, simple fun with all the unhinged energy of your high school friends egging each other on.

1st Jackass movie in over 10 years comes nearly 2 decades after original

Johnny Knoxville flies through the air after being rammed by a bull — and before suffering a brain hemorrhage — in a stunt on Jackass Forever. The movie, which is being released in Canada on Friday, is a throwback to the over-the-top comedy's origins. (Paramount Pictures)

A makeup-adorned, puppeteered penis monster attacked by a real snapping turtle. A milk chug contest on a mechanical carousel, directly beneath a bombing run by military jets. P.K. Subban firing a hockey puck so hard at a man's groin, the metal cup he's wearing comes away with a considerable — and worrying — dent.

All of these and more are the stunts scattered through Jackass Forever. The movie, being released in Canada on Friday, is a return more than 10 years out from the series' last entry and just shy of two decades since the first, Jackass: The Movie.

The deceptively heartwarming fourth entry is not only a triumphant swan song (almost unbelievable, given their age) for a group of guys who started out filming low-level pranks on consumer video cameras, but it's currently the best-reviewed movie they've created — by a long shot.

And, like all things Jackass, the reasons are pretty simple.

First, it's good. That's not to say it's for everybody — if you never "got" what was funny about using bungee cords to launch a man in a porta-potty 30 metres into the air, or shooting fully grown adults wearing duck costumes from a canoe with paintball guns, or (God forbid) the infamous "paper cuts" stunt, Jackass Forever is not for you.

WATCH | Jackass Forever trailer: 


But for a specific group of a specific age, it's an unnecessary but welcome victory lap, after the aging group of skaters already pushed their luck with Jackass 3D. And in the end, Jackass Forever is one of the very few examples of simple, uncomplicated, non-toxic fun: Behind the gross-out humour and over-the-top stunts, there's a wholesome kind of happiness that feels like going straight back to the early 2000s.

In a good way.

But outside of the look back, there are definitely updates. Despite the relatively shoestring budget of $10 million US, the film looks great. When Johnny Knoxville does a double backflip after being nearly gored by a very angry bull, you're treated to every shifting microexpression as he tumbles through the air in slow motion. And as he lies unconscious on the ground, you see all the same expressions in his castmates' faces as they joke and wait to see if their captain wakes up.

Camaraderie between old and new stars

Which leads to the other reason Jackass Forever just works, and why it has worked for so long — outlasting both imitators and a few predecessors. The camaraderie between both the vets (including Knoxville, Steve-O, Jason Acuña and Chris Pontius) and the crop of new stars never feels forced or fake.

In fact, most of them were already fans of the show or friends with the cast. Both Too Stupid to Die creator Zach Holmes and rapper Machine Gun Kelly show off their Jackass-inspired tattoos at different points in the movie; comedian Rachel Wolfson — the franchise's first female member — is a self-described longtime Jackass fan; and actor and former rapper Jasper Dolphin frequently had Jackass stars like Knoxville, Bam Margera and Dave England on his sketch-comedy series Loiter Squad.

Dolphin — real name Davon Wilson — even went so far as to rope in fellow Loiter Squad member Tyler, The Creator, and his own father, Dark Shark. And though Dark Shark and his incredible fear of bugs, dogs and "anything you don't find in the hood" might be the surprise standout of Jackass's guest stars, they're in good company.

Rachel Wolfson, seated, prepares to be stung by a scorpion in a stunt from Jackass Forever. Wolfson is the first woman to join the Jackass cast. (Sean Cliver/Paramount Pictures)

Everyone from skateboarder Tony Hawk to UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou to comedian Eric André and even Mythbusters' Tory Belleci are roped in to administer pain — or grin and take it.

And in true Jackass fashion, it really does feel as if they got involved because it all just seemed like a fun night. Tyler figures out the trick that's about to be played on him but lets it go on anyway — before screaming in pain and turning it around on director Jeff Tremaine.

Meanwhile, Subban delivers a gleeful (and completely unprintable) threat to stunt performer Ehren McGhehey before launching what looks to be his most powerful slap shot. And in all the mayhem, there's a relief in the lack of subtext.

Canadian NHL player P.K. Subban, centre, lines up a shot aimed at stunt performer Ehren McGhehey in a scene from Jackass Forever. (Sean Cliver/Paramount Pictures)

That's because there's no real depth to Jackass Forever — again, in a good way. There's no message or meaning and, to be honest, very little worth analyzing — a refreshing break from the drama-infused real world.

Jackass Forever may be just more of the same, but it's more of what's needed. It's 2002's Jackass, but better. Just a bunch of guys being dudes — and what could feel to people of a certain generation like a return to a time when everything seemed far less serious.

That is, if Jackass is your kind of thing.

But as ironically comforting as it can feel, there's a bittersweet taste. Regardless of the surprising commitment the 40-plus-year-old stars continue to put into the stunts, the toll it takes is evident.

Like Knoxville, Steve-O ends up unconscious and bleeding from the head in one scene before he's taken away on a stretcher. But in Knoxville's case, the injury led to a brain hemorrhage and a promise from the consummate daredevil that this will likely be his last Jackass film in front of the camera.

Lawsuits filed

Behind the lens, the team is facing court cases on two fronts: The first is a lawsuit from a Jet Ski operator seeking $12 million in damages from a stunt allegedly gone wrong, and another is from Jackass founder Bam Margera.

Margera (who has been a part of the team since the original MTV show in 2000, and whose CKY video series most likely inspired Jackass in the first place) is alleging his civil rights were violated after producers forced him to sign a "wellness agreement."

While he was originally slated to take part in Jackass Forever, he was fired for failing a drug test — a condition put in place by production company Paramount after director Tremaine had to fight to have him included in the first place.

Bam Margera, who has been part of the Jackass team since 2000, is alleging his civil rights were violated after producers forced him to sign a 'wellness agreement.' While he was originally slated to take part in Jackass Forever, he was fired for failing a drug test. (Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

Though they initially seemed on good terms, Tremaine has since filed a restraining order against Margera, while Knoxville called the whole rift "heartbreaking."

And in a series of Instagram videos where Margera explained how he felt he had been forced out and "abandoned," costar Steve-O left the since-deleted comment: "Everyone bent over backwards to get you in the movie, and all you had to do was not get loaded. You've continued to get loaded, it's that simple."

Despite how good it feels to return to the world of Jackass, it's all a sign that nothing stays simple forever. Though the traditional behind-the-scenes home release Jackass 4.5 is on its way later this year, it seems real life is finally catching up to the consequence-free bubble the Jackass crew created and seemed to inhabit.

So if you want to see a a man strapped down in a room with a live bear — and covered in honey and salmon — still somehow walk away smiling, I'd get to it while I still could.


Jackson Weaver is a senior writer for CBC Entertainment News. You can reach him at jackson.weaver@cbc.ca, or follow him on Twitter at @jacksonwweaver